Thanks to Nijay Gupta for notifying us of the release, or near release, of two volumes in the prestigious International Critical Commentary series: Dale Allison on the epistle of James (just released), and Karl Donfried on 1 & 2 Thessalonians (to-be released in October). Nijay notes that the Amazon (USA) prices are rather steep. I checked; Amazon offers 14% off Allison and 10% off Donfried. For the bargain shopper, BookDepository.com is selling each for a bit more of a reduction–19% off Allison and 25% off Donfried, with free shipping worldwide. Allison is available for even cheaper through private vendors on Amazon and other sites.
Saturday, 11 May 2013
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Monday, 28 January 2013
As avid fans of the television series “Friends,” my wife and I try to incorporate clips of the show into our teaching as often as possible (science for her, Bible for me). In class today, I illustrated the Antioch Incident in Galatians 2:11-14 through the following clip (season 4, episode 11):
Tuesday, 6 November 2012
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I have an article in the latest volume of JBL (131.3 , 547-66) titled “Voluntary Debt Remission and the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-13).” JBL doesn’t include abstracts, but here is a lengthy soundbite at the end of the survey/critique of existing interpretations that, more or less, explains what I try to do in the piece:
Numerous other interpretations could be presented here, each with its own shortcomings. The foregoing survey, however, has sufficiently demonstrated the common assumption underlying most of these inadequate explanations, namely, that unless the steward is deducting from his own profits, the reductions are to be viewed as hostile to his master, or in the words of Douglas E. Oakman, as “betrayal” and “an abrogation of the then-current social mores of fidelity.” Kloppenborg similarly remarks, “[T]he natural implication of the story is that the steward’s actions are injurious to the master’s interests.” Schellenberg concurs, explaining, “The expectation within the world of the parable [is] that loyal stewardship requires meticulous collection of the master’s debts.” But these assumptions rest on a limited understanding of the purpose and function of debt remission in the ancient economy. And since, as Klyne Snodgrass suggests, “[t]his is a parable where one must fill in the blanks,” in this essay I will offer a new explanation of the master’s praise based on the general custom of lease adjustment in the early empire. Through the testimony of Roman landowners such as Pliny the Younger, Cicero, and Columella, as well as those represented in leasing contracts from early Roman Egypt, I will demonstrate that the instability of land tenancy during the early imperial period quite often required wealthy proprietors to reduce debts (rents and arrears) in order to enable and encourage their repayment, as well as to secure the longevity of their tenants and their own long-term profitability. Debt remission in antiquity, then, was advantageous both to landlords and tenants, an insight that has significant implications for the interpretation of our parable (552-53).
If you interested in matters relating to the ancient economy and/or the interpretation of this confusing parable, I would encourage you to check out the article.
Saturday, 3 November 2012
I picked up Douglas Campbell’s The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul (Eerdmans, 2009) from the college library yesterday, intending to read through much/most of it. I have skimmed bits and pieces of it before – after all, who has time to work through all 1,200 + pages? Well, I’m sure some of you dedicated academics do! But as of this afternoon, after skimming through a few more chapters, I gave up again. I have decided (for now) to spare myself a month’s worth of free time and to settle for reading a couple of published review articles on it instead. So, I started with Barry Matlock’s and will shortly get to Grant Macaskill’s. Both are published in JSNT 34.2 (2011). I have to say, for a quite wordy 35-or-so-page book review, Matlock’s article is thoroughly entertaining. I found myself grinning repeatedly throughout, especially as he critiqued Campbell’s caricature of “Justification theory.” Here is how Matlock summarizes his comments on Campbell’s portrait of Justification theory:
It is the most elaborately constructed straw man I have ever witnessed, and to watch Campbell parry and thrust with it across hundreds of sprawling pages is a singular and uncanny spectacle (137).
Tuesday, 23 October 2012
In my Romans course today I lectured on Rom 7:1-25 and had a great a discussion with my students about the spiritual status of the speaker (“I”) in verses 14-25. Not surprisingly, prior to the reading and coursework they did in preparation for today, many of my students had never seriously grappled with the issue of whether the speaker in this passage represents a regenerate or unregenerate person; most had simply assumed that Paul was narrating his post-conversion struggle with “Sin”. Again, such is not surprising considering that this is the view taught in many churches and in some scholarly commentaries (e.g., Cranfield and Dunn). But this got me to wondering if this is the assumption shared by most readers of this blog. So, I thought I would post a poll so readers can vote on which position they find the strongest, also providing a third option (“both”) for those who do not believe the regenerate and unregenerate positions adequately cover the interpretive possibilities. Please do share your opinion.
Btw, for interested readers, I recommend Jason Maston’s recently published thesis on Romans 7-8, Divine and Human Agency in Second Temple Judaism and Paul: A Comparative Approach (WUNT 2/297; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010).
Tuesday, 18 September 2012
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Congratulations to Michael Bird, who is headed to Ridley College Melbourne in 2013 to be Lecturer in Theology.
Friday, 31 August 2012
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Cambridge University Press has begun advertising the forthcoming release (January 2013) of Mark D. Mathews’s monograph, Riches, Poverty, and the Faithful: Perspectives on Wealth in the Second Temple Period and the Apocalypse of John (SNTSMS 154). This release is very exciting. Mark is a fellow Durham grad; we started together in 2007 and submitted our theses within days of each other in 2010. Mark and I were also neighbors in Durham for two years. His doctoral work was supervised by Loren Stuckenbruck, so when Loren moved to Princeton in 2009, Mark and his family followed him there. Mark is now in full-time church ministry at Bethany Presbyterian Church, near Philadelphia.
Here are the book summary and table of contents:
In the book of Revelation, John appeals to the faithful to avoid the temptations of wealth, which he connects with evil and disobedience within secular society. New Testament scholars have traditionally viewed his somewhat radical stance as a reaction to the social injustices and idolatry of the imperial Roman cults of the day. Mark D. Mathews argues that John’s rejection of affluence was instead shaped by ideas in the Jewish literature of the Second Temple period which associated the rich with the wicked and viewed the poor as the righteous. Mathews explores how traditions preserved in the Epistle of Enoch and later Enochic texts played a formative role in shaping John’s theological perspective. This book will be of interest to those researching poverty and wealth in early Christian communities and the relationship between the traditions preserved in the Dead Sea Scrolls and New Testament.
Table of Contents
Part I. Introduction: 1. The question of wealth in the Apocalypse
Part II. The Language of Wealth and Poverty in the Second Temple Period: Introduction
2. Dead Sea Scrolls: non-sectarian Aramaic documents
3. Dead Sea Scrolls: non-sectarian Hebrew documents
4. Dead Sea Scrolls: sectarian Hebrew documents
5. Other Jewish literature
Part III. Wealth, Poverty, and the Faithful Community in the Apocalypse of John: Introduction
6. The language of wealth and poverty in the seven messages – Rev 2-3
7. The present eschatological age – Rev 4-6
8. Buying and selling in Satan’s world – Rev 12-13, 18
9. Final conclusions.
Friday, 27 July 2012
I was thrilled to learn some weeks ago that following the retirement of Dr. Dennis Dirks, who served as Dean of Talbot School of Theology for an impressive 20 years, Talbot has named as Dirks’ replacement the school’s own Clint Arnold, a Professor of NT. As one of Dr. Arnold’s former students, I believe he is eminently qualified for the position. Not only has he spent the vast majority of his adult life at Biola/Talbot (Biola, B.A., ’80; Talbot, M.Div. ’83; on faculty since ’87), but he possesses the enthusiasm for and experience in both the church and academy to direct Talbot into the next chapter of the school’s ministry. So, congrats to Dr. Arnold!
I thought it also interesting that Talbot’s choice for the position is a NT scholar. I normally don’t pay much attention to administrative decisions like this, but several NT scholars have been appointed to seminary dean positions in recent years. In addition to Arnold at Talbot, Richard Hays at Duke Divinity School and Margaret Mitchell at the University of Chicago Divinity School were also appointed to the dean of their respective institutions in the past two years. NT scholar Harold Attridge has served as Dean of Yale Divnity School for some years, and according to the YDS website, NT scholar Gregory Stirling, current Dean of Notre Dame Graduate School, will be appointed as the new YDS dean in October. So what does all of this mean? Is there something about being a NT scholar that translates well into administration? Maybe…
Wednesday, 20 June 2012
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The latest volume of NTS is now available online. Note especially the interesting articles touching on Paul and politics, including:
- Jeffrey A. D. Weima, “‘Peace and Security’ (1 Thess 5.3): Prophetic Warning or Political Propaganda?”
- Julien M. Ogereau, “The Jerusalem Collection as Κοινωνία: Paul’s Global Politics of Socio-Economic Equality and Solidarity”
Also of political interest is the article by Lukas Bormann, “‘Auch unter politischen Gesichtspunkten sehr sorgfältig ausgewählt’: Die ersten deutschen Mitglieder der Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (SNTS) 1937–1946.” Here is the abstract:
The fact that many of the initial German members of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas were also supporters of the NS regime and among the authors of scholarly antisemitism (G. Kittel, K. G. Kuhn, W. Grundmann) is one that requires proper examination. This paper uses relevant archival material, such as previously unexplored documents from the Reich Ministry of Education (Reichserziehungsministerium), to explain this perceived link, demonstrating how Professor Gerhard Kittel (1888-1948) from Tübingen used his political power to control the selection of the first German scholars in the Society.
Wednesday, 9 May 2012
During my first semester at MBI I taught a course on 1 and 2 Corinthians. As many readers will know, teaching these letters to non-specialists can be quite difficult, for many of the problems Paul addresses in them assume familiarity with the ancient world generally and Roman Corinth in particular. Therefore, as I prepared to teach the course, I sought to find a video resource that would introduce the colony to those who had never visited. What I found was a decent, though less-than-amazing, DVD that provides the viewer with an 11-minute tour of the ruins of ancient Corinth along with some of its history. The DVD sells on Amazon for $14.95, or can be downloaded instantly for $11.96. Admittedly, the price is a bit steep for what you get, but I was desperate (see the 2-minute preview on youtube). And regardless of the quality, I love videos like this, for they make biblical texts come more alive. When Paul wrote 1 and 2 Corinthians, he was addressing real people living in an actual city — in fact, a quite famous city, whose cultural preoccupations intensely affected and inhibited the maturation of the church. While important aspects of social history cannot be sufficiently communicated in them, videos like this help students at least become a bit more situated in the foreign landscape of the first-century world.
I don’t use many other videos in my teaching, though I’m sure my students wish I did! I own the DVD Where Jesus Walked (wow, selling for instant download at Amazon for $1.99!), though I have not yet had an opportunity to show it. If anybody knows of other video resources that might be helpful in teaching various NT (esp. text-based) courses, please do share them!